It's After the End, humanity is on the brink of extinction. In a remote outpost somewhere, one man is still looking to reverse this situation. He toils away in a laboratory trying to cure the disease, fix the Earth's Magnetic field, change the weather, or even build a time machine to go back and prevent the apocalypse.
The Sole Surviving Scientist needn't be completely alone, he might have some soldiers guarding him, a few survivors he's generously allowed into his stronghold, even an assistant. Regardless of his company he's the only real scientist left (that we know of). Can overlap with Crazy Survivalist, in which case expect some truly inspired "Home Alone" Antics with Death Traps.
Often the scientist's efforts are fruitless and he descends into depression, madness or a macabre obsession with studying mankind's downfall.
This trope is especially common in zombie fiction.
- Eugene Porter on The Walking Dead claims to be this when he encounters Rick's group. He tells them he is a scientist who knows what caused the zombie outbreak and is working on a way to combat it. However it is later revealed to be a lie, as Eugene only used this claim as a cover story to make himself seem important so stronger people with more practical skills for surviving the end of civilization would be willing to protect him
- There was a 28 Days Later spin-off comic with a scientist who played a role in the creation of the Rage Virus. He admits this to a girl that he had escaped a holding facility with, and plans to atone by becoming one of these, being that he's one of the few people alive (maybe the only one) who knows anything about the virus and has the best chance of curing it. Unfortunately, she had lost her parents earlier during the initial outbreak, and lost her brother during the escape. Apparently learning that the guy she'd been helping was the root cause of those things is too much for her, so first she kisses him, then grabs his gun and shoots him. Then lets herself be killed by the soldiers pursuing them. So much for that.
- B.P.R.D.: When the Bureau gets its new headquarters, a disaffected nuclear-proof bunker in the mountains, they find an old scientist whose been living there since its was shut down, writing down notes on a typewriter for so long the keys wore out and it punched holes in the paper, he was so far gone he didn't notice. He later releases an Eldritch Abomination into the base thinking it some kind of angelic creature.
- Dr. Logan from Day of the Dead (1985) is a prime example. His obsessive pursuit of understanding the undead was a harsh critique on the pursuit of scientific knowledge without practical application.
- That being said, he had made some remarkable achievements; he managed to train a zombie to be peaceful and empathic, and even remember parts of his past life. Had he been allowed to continue his work, he could have used "tame" zombies to perform tasks out in the open without fear of being eaten, and even potentially influence an entire horde's behaviour.
- This is true, but when confronted he didn't bring up any such practical applications. He simply raved on a bout a need to understand, hence his focus was on satisfying his own curiosity rather then accomplishing anything productive.
- Dr. Robert Neville from the film version of I Am Legend is about as alone as you can get.
- So is Robert Neville on The Omega Man.
- The future in-a-bubble scenes from The Fountain appear to be this trope, although the oncologist is more concerned with staying alive until he reaches a far-off star than with restoring the Earth.
- Zac Hobson in The Quiet Earth, a scientist who was working on Project Flashlight. A malfunction caused almost everyone on Earth to simply disappear. He goes a little crazy in the first part of the movie, but after meeting two other survivors he tries to destroy the laboratory where the experiment took place so it can't happen again. It does anyway.
- Abby in Grindhouse: Planet Terror, or he would have been if he hadn't gotten killed. This is lampshaded in the movie.
Cherry Darling: I don't suppose anyone else here is a bio-chemical engineer?
- The scientist holed up in the high school-turned research facility in Carriers. He was originally part of a team trying to find a cure for the virus. Unfortunately, the best they managed was a serum that kept the patient alive for an extra three days, and that was in a worldwide joint effort. By the time the main characters find him, he's showing obvious signs of infection, and is just about to mercy kill the remaining survivors in the school, along with himself.
- Edmond Haminton has a story where all the humanity has died except for a single immortal scientist. See Came Back Wrong for a description of his efforts.
- In the Doctor Who spin-off novel The Eyeless, the Doctor visits a planet where most of the population was wiped out in an incomprehensible catastrophe. Professor Jeffip does his best to fill the Sole Surviving Scientist role.
- In The Girl With All the Gifts, Dr. Caldwell is that, because although quite competent, she wasn't among the scientists chosen to research the virus that caused the Zombie Apocalypse. Those scientist then disappeared, leaving only Dr. Caldwell to do the job.
- Dr. Edwin Jenner from The Walking Dead is a depressed and ultimately suicidal scientist found alone in the CDC bunker by the other survivors. Later in the series, the group encounters a character named Eugene Porter, who claims to be a scientist searching for a cure to the zombie outbreak.
- Doctor Who: Professor Yana in "Utopia", until the Doctor shows up. The sole scientist at the end of the universe trying to get a rocket ship to work, so he can send everyone to Utopia.
- In Battlestar Galactica (2003), the Final Five were Earth-1's sole surviving scientists after a nuclear holocaust, who attempted to Fling a Light into the Future, only to succumb to the next iteration of the cycle of violence at the hands of their progeny.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the episode "You're No Fun Anymore", where alien blancmanges turn everyone into Scotsmen in a plot to take over the Earth, a scientist and his bimbo stay out of their reach and search for the reason of the transformation of everyone into Scotsmen.
- In the play R.U.R. (a.k.a. Rossum's Universal Robots), after the robots kill off humanity, the sole survivor is Alquist. It is a significant plot point that Alquist is actually not a scientist at all (he was the clerk of the works at the robot factory); the robots want him to figure out how to allow them to reproduce, and he doesn't have the knowledge or skill to do so.
- In Metroid Prime 3, on the planet of Bryyo, you can read the journal entries of the last surviving scientist, as he tries to keep the world from suffering an environmental collapse. He fails.
- Belthasar from Chrono Trigger spent his time After the End building the Epoch which would allow anyone to travel back in time and avoid the Earth's destruction by Lavos.
- The Adobe Flash game One Chance is all about this - you play a scientist trying to fix an accidentally lethal cure for cancer as it slowly infects everyone in the world.
- In another Flash game, Lab of the Dead, the main character is a sole surviving researcher following in the footsteps of the original dead scientists.
- Adam Fenix is Sera's Sole Surviving Scientist in the Gears of War series. The Locust get to Azura before Delta. They manage to kill everyone on the island except Adam, and they're literally at his door before being stopped.
- The Institute in Fallout 4 are an entire society of this, leaning towards the macabre, depending on the Player's interpretation and actions.
- In Half-Life 2 there's not a whole lot of anything left, much less scientists. It's unclear if the Resistance has more than Doctors Kleiner, Vance, Magnusson, Mossberg and Freeman.
- At the end of Breath of Death VII's final dungeon, you encounter a labcoat-wearing human survivor who uses the crystals you found in Ruins of the Modern Age to travel back in time to prevent the nuclear apocalypse from happening in the first place. But not before a sudden attack by a designated Final Boss from nowhere.